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November 8, 2003

Anti-Fools of the World Unite!


by Sascha Matuszak

I think Americans would be surprised to know how conservative the views of many Chinese are concerning such "mutual" problems as Iraq, North Korea, terrorism and the whole world order as it is now.

Of course, young Chinese males with internet access tend to rant on about the global conspiracy engineered by the US and Co. – but

a) that is a young male thing to do and

b) young American males with internet access ranting about the US government are not few in number ...

While probing around for interesting views on Shenzhou 5 and the "future dominating presence of China" in general, I found the older generation (say, 30 and above) regard an emergent China as beneficial to pocketbooks all over the world, harmless militarily unless attacked and in search of more and deeper international friends, not enemies. Very few Chinese predict a Chinese invasion of anywhere, even Taiwan, unless forced to do so by international (read US) pressure and/or actions. Such actions would have to surpass a Hainan Spy Incident or sale of destroyers to Taiwan in severity.

Regarding Iraq

Everyone hates Saddam. Even his buddies in the Middle East must hate him – even if he is gaining refuge somewhere ( I personally believe he is a red spot in a bomb crater), then that refuge must be quite expensive and not just economically.

Chinese are no exception. Perhaps "hate" is too strong a word, let's substitute "ridicule with a dash of disdainful pity." The mention of Saddam usually illicits a guffaw or two and a well-deserved hawk-spit combination. His regime is well known here as a tyrannical, oppressive doomed government that should have stepped down a long time ago in disgrace. For Chinese, a leader like Saddam would have a face the size of a needlehead and it would be unthinkable for him to remain in power. At least Mao was able to claim victories against the Nationalists, the Japanese and even the Americans in Korea.

The policeman role of the US in Iraq is applauded. The removal of a cancerous regime admired. The display of military power (surprise surprise) impressive. No American can disagree so far.

Nevertheless, like many a baffeled layman, the Chinese are sceptical of the last six months of "clean-up operations," threatening gestures towards various Arab countries, dubious claims of success, dubious hogwash coming out the White House, Pentagon and even the State Department and basically everything the World Cop has done in the neighborhood since he removed the resident crime lord.

Many an American should find himself nodding along.

Regarding North Korea

It must seem strange to a Chinese to be discussing North Korea with an American. The "war to help out our old buddy" is billed as a major success here in China. Although "We Won the War" banners are nowhere to be seen, not a few Chinese assume the blank "whatever you say" expression when presented with "it was a tie" type evidence.

Having said that, the war here is nowhere near as present in the minds of the locals as the "War Against Japanese Aggression." Young Chinese males with internet access have no love for Japanese and routinely let it be known. It is a curious relationship – Japanese business, fashion, music, video games and electronics in general are gobbled up in China, but Chinese students will rarely admit liking Japanese people, although they will ruefully admit that changes have taken place in both nations over the past 50 years. MBA students asked to give impressions of Japanese listed "cruel, aggressive, war-like, fake and short-legged." When one of them mentioned smart, mumbles went around the room. (In contrast, when one student labeled Americans as smart the whole room erupted in disbelief. They settled on "not as smart as Chinese.")

They had nothing to say for North Koreans. Thinking about these erstwhile allies left to rot somewhere northeast of Beijing threw these students into confusion. Are they the socialist brothers fighting the imperialist powers? The rogue nation blackmailing the world and giving China big mafan (inconvenient annoying trouble)? Nothing at all?

Yet again, the cabbies of Chengdu came to the rescue. Following an informal poll, the following composite statement will be used to represent all cab drivers in this city of 10 million:

"Those bastards are just giving us all mafan. What kind of a person sits in a corner and demands money and technology just because they have a weapon? It's blackmail! The US should deal with them!"

Naturally the above statement is not representative of the Chinese government or its policies toward N. Korea, but Americans, even Korean War vets, should find themselves grunting sagely in agreement with the many Chinese that hold this view.

China has cut off oil, sent Wu Bangguo after N. Korea agreed to talks and stuck out its neck a few times to avert a suspension of talks which could lead to eventual hostilities. China does not want a confrontation with the current warmongering, bumbling US Administration. N. Korea yapping about freezing the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization's assets and "nuclear deterrents" probably angers Beijing as much as it does Washington. The longer this goes on, the larger the chance of confrontation, which would be ugly by conservative estimates.

Hu and Bush

The reaction that these two leaders received in their recent trips through the Pacific is emblematic of the foolishness of the Bush Administration and the similar views today's China holds with the rest of the world.

Hu was hailed in Thailand as well as Australia and his speeches on increased globalization, regional cooperation and stronger economic ties brought the folks to their feet. All the various acronyms that make up the alliances in the Pacific beamed and clapped till their hands bled as Hu outlined his government's future role as a facilitator of trade and economic prosperity as well as a harbinger of peace and stability. The theme was cash and the crowd loved it.

Bush stumbeled into Indonesia and stumbeled out wondering aloud why the Muslims sneered so much as he spoke. In Thailand the poor deluded man was outfoxed by Hu and had to talk about anything else but the script on Chinese RMB revaluation that was handed to him on the flight over.

Bush wandered into a multi-ethnic business dinner and started yapping about Holy Wars against evil. All this a few days after one of his generals equated Islam with Satan. "Muslims" have been calling the US Hell and the current incumbent Satan for a while, but those guys were radicals speaking from caves or broke street peddlers – not upper level officials sanctioned from on high.

Ironically, Clinton's recent talks on globalization at Yale sound more like Hu. And a lot more like me and you than our current "leaders."

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  • Sascha Matuszak is a freelance writer living in Chengdu.

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